The world in lockdown: time for exit strategies?
Not only US President Trump but also European politicians and scientists are already thinking out loud about easing the restrictions to contain Covid-19 and calling for corresponding strategies. The days after Easter are being mentioned as the time to start relaxing the measures. Commentators wonder whether such demands are not a little premature.
Criticial moment yet to come
Even if the infection rate passes its peak and starts going down again the restrictions should not be eased too quickly, historian Paolo Mieli warns in Corriere della Sera:
“The history of epidemics teaches us that the critical moment is precisely when the number of deaths starts going down, the public authorities congratulate themselves on having escaped the danger, the tension eases and people start believing they can return to their former lives. From the plague in Athens in the 5th century BC to the 'Spanish flu' that accompanied the end of the First World War and caused more deaths than the war itself, the first phase of infection was always followed by a few weeks of standstill, but then a second, sometimes more aggressive, viral wave followed.”
Normality still a long way off
Anyone who thinks it would be a good idea to reopen factories, schools, restaurants and stadiums soon hasn't been paying enough attention in the past three weeks, the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes in outrage:
“They are accepting the risk that the virus makes a comeback after Easter. ... Does this mean we all have to come to terms with the prospect of the current situation continuing for months on end? ... There are already initial proposals [for relaxing the measures]: the introduction of special shopping hours for at-risk groups, placing people with pre-existing conditions in rehabilitation clinics and hotels, allowing restaurants to stay open with every third table occupied, and so on. ... What won't be happening for some time to come: football in packed stadiums, Oktoberfest parties and the Olympic doping games. All this will only be possible once a vaccine has been found.”
Lift lockdown with mass testing
Now at the very latest the government should be thinking about ways out of the lockdown, The Times demands:
“There is a limit to how long companies and jobs can be shut down and then kept on life support. The emergency measures so far announced can only buy time. It is vital that all governments use this time to create the conditions under which lockdowns can be lifted and economic life can return to normal, even in the event of new waves of infections. It is already clear that this must involve a vast increase in testing capacity, combined with a new focus on contact tracing, so that in future only those infected need be isolated. It will also require a massive expansion in critical care facilities and equipment.”